Tabitha was trying to have control over Douglas' anger by explaining herself and giving herself up, but it wasn't working. Douglas was getting angry even more often.
"Tabitha, how would you feel about learning to take care of yourself rather than trying to control Douglas when he is angry?"
"I don't know how to do that."
"Yes, I know," I answered. "But would you be willing to learn? The problem is that you and Douglas are trying to control each other, which always causes many problems in relationships. This has been a pattern for you, and it has never worked. Would you be willing to learn a new way?"
"Yes! I don't want to lose this relationship. I really love Douglas and I know he loves me, so I will do whatever it takes to save this relationship."
This was my advice to her: "The first thing you need to learn is how to become 'non-reactive.' As long as you are reacting to Douglas with your own controlling behavior, nothing will change. Being non-reactive means that you don't get angry, you don't explain, and you don't give yourself up. It means that you don't react at all — that you completely disengage from the interaction as soon as Douglas gets angry. Disengaging is not the same as withdrawing. When you withdraw, you are closing your heart and probably blaming him. He will pick up the energy of your hurt or anger and react to it.
"I am going to teach you a simple way of disengaging. If you practice this, you will find things changing rapidly. I call this, 'singing your happy song.' You find a simple little happy song that you like, such as 'Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" and you sing it silently in your mind as you walk away from any negative interaction. Singing your happy song keeps you focused on something happy rather than on your anger, hurt, fear, or anxiety. But you can do this only when you let go of trying to control him and focus on taking care of yourself instead."
Tabitha practiced her "happy song" all week until our next session. She reported that they had the calmest week they had had in a long time! As things calmed down, they were then able to have meaningful and productive discussions about the issues in their relationship. Tabitha went on to learn my Inner Bonding process and received much ongoing support for learning how to take loving care of herself as a member of the Inner Bonding membership community.
To begin learning how to love and connect with yourself so that you can connect with your partner and others, take advantage of our free Inner Bonding eCourse, receive Free Help, and take our 12-Week home study eCourse, "The Intimate Relationship Toolbox" — the first two weeks are free! Discover SelfQuest®, a transformational self-healing/conflict resolution computer program. Phone or Skype sessions with Dr. Margaret Paul.
Connect with Margaret on her Facebook pages: Inner Bonding and SelfQuest.
This article was originally published at Inner Bonding
. Reprinted with permission from the author.